Message in bottle uncorks a soon-solved mystery for Victorian beach stroller

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For many beachcombers a message in a bottle is the ultimate find and one that Colleen Hughson was ecstatic to discover on a recent walk to Shelly Beach in Warrnambool, south-west Victoria.

“I was walking along and as I looked up I saw something glinting in the sun,” Ms Hughson said.

“As I got closer I realised it was a bottle.

“I looked inside and could see there was a message, and the bottle looked really old.

“I was absolutely elated.”

Ms Hughson has spent many years raising awareness of rubbish washing up on local beaches.

“I guess you do dream that one day something good will turn up on the beach,” she said.

“Last year I read quite a few books on oceanography and I read about messages in bottles turning up in different places, so I really wanted to find one for myself.”

Bottle doesn’t travel far – yet
Keen to make the opening of the bottle a special event, Ms Hughson invited family and friends around and bought a bottle of champagne.

She made a video asking everyone where they thought the bottle came from and what the message inside would be.

“I was hoping it might’ve come from somewhere in Europe or be about 50 years old and been around the world’s oceans a couple of times before landing on the beach,” Ms Hughson said.

When she opened the bottle however, the message inside was dated June, 14, 2020 and it turned out that it had not travelled very far at all.

A couple of social media posts traced the bottle to 11-year-old Warrnambool girl Eve Simpson, who had written the note a couple of weeks before Ms Hughson found it.

“My dad had this really fancy rum bottle and he wanted to write a message in a bottle, so I wrote a message and drew a picture,” Eve said.

“The next day I threw it out on Levy’s Beach [in Warnambool] and it floated back in, so dad threw it a bit further out.”

Eve was hoping the bottle and her message would travel the world, and her wish may still come true because Ms Hughson is planning to refloat the bottle, and this time it will hopefully go a little further.

“I’ve organised a deep-sea trawler to drop it off past the continental shelf … hopefully it’ll travel a greater distance to New Zealand or South Africa,” she said.

“I’m planning to add my own note to the bottle because I realise how exciting it is for people to find a message in a bottle.

Eve has not ruled out writing another message as well.

“Dad’s got another nice rum bottle so I might use that,” she said.